Winter Pet-siderations

As Autumn comes and we start to feel the onset of winter we need to think about starting to make some small changes to keep our pets happy & healthy.  In the same way that we start looking for warmer clothing or dragging the heater out of storage, our pets are also sensitive to drops in temperatures.

Whilst our location in south eastern QLD means that we do not have the extreme temperature changes of the cooler southern climates, there are still a few simple adjustments we can do to ensure the winter period passes without too much discomfort for our families.

Here’s our top 5 winter pet-siderations for your pets:

  • Shelter
  • Warmth
  • Feeding
  • Exercise
  • Water

Shelter


Number one on our list is shelter – and all pets require adequate protection from rain, wind & the cold in general. 

For dogs who live outside, a kennel is a suitable shelter and ideally would be slightly elevated to prevent moisture accumulation.   Dogs that sleep inside the house (but not in the bed with you !) will still notice a cooler change and will benefit from a sheltered spot in the house & a nice warm bed or cushion. 

Cats will quite often seek out the warmest places in the house & can’t go past a cosy cuddler or cat bed.    Installing a cat door is also a great idea and provides your pets with the choice to come inside when they feel they need to.

Our feathered friends also need some extra consideration over winter.  Putting the cage outside in the milder winter sun during the day may be welcomed although it needs to be protected from cold winds (and other ‘wild’ birds).  Remember when bringing cages inside not to place them too close to heaters in the house.

There are houses and cubbies for guinea pigs & small critters as well so the whole family is sheltered for winter. Cages & hutches should be moved to sheltered areas, out of wind, drafts, and rain.

Warmth

Whilst ensuring your pet has adequate shelter is essential, don’t forget that sometimes a little extra warmth is also called for.  Young puppies & kittens are susceptible to the cold as are older dogs and cats with more sluggish circulatory systems that make it a little harder to stay warm.  Remember too that if your dog is an arthritis sufferer that this will be made worse by the cold.

Dogs with lower percentages of body fat or dogs with single coats/short hair may benefit from a coat or jacket.  And adding an extra blanket or rug to a kennel would not be unwelcome.   Heat pads under the bedding can also provide a soft, gentle heat.  Some inside dogs may actually become uncomfortable if the house is too over-heated for them – so also make sure that they have access to a cooler area.

Try a window perch for kitty – it’s perfect for basking in the winter sun.   Birds can find warmth from adding a bird buddy or a happy hut to the cage.  Guinea Pigs and other small animals will also benefit from plenty of extra bedding material to snuggle into. 

For your reptile friends, check that heat pads and heat lamps are still working effectively.  BE sure to use a thoermostat to check the temparature in different places of your enclosure.

And don’t forget the fish family members either. Most common tropical fish prefer a temperature range between 24 – 28 degrees so a heater is a must.  For bettas (siamese fighters) in smaller bowls a small heater or heat mat will do.  Buying a new thermometer for winter is a good idea to make sure your heater is still working correctly.


Feeding

It can be a bit of a balancing act over winter to maintain your pets weight.  Some of the finer coated dog & cat breeds may actually require a little extra food to maintain their weight. Others may have slightly less activity during winter and will therefore require less food to prevent them from gaining weight. 

Outside dogs or working dogs may also need additional food during winter to meet the ‘warming’ demands of their bodies.

It’s good practice for any time of year to be aware of changes in weight of any of your pets and to adjust your portions accordingly.  Watching the treats is always good advice !


Exercise

Winter months generally mean less daylight and more darkness – possibly limiting the time we may have to get out and about and exercise with our pets. 

When you can’t get out as much as you like, think about what you can do at home to keep your pets active and entertained.  Filling a treat ball with some liver jerky or a Kong with a smidgeon of Vegemite can keep your dog busy.  There's a myraid of food and treat dispenser toys available, puzzle toys and other toys to keep your pooch stimulated and active.  There are also many interactive toys available for you and them to keep you both active!

Cats can suffer from inactivity as well during winter so a cat scratching and climbing post, cat tunnel or interactive cat toys can keep kitty amused and active. 

For extra safety during the winter whilst walking your dogs, night blinkers and reflective collars, leads & harnesses are available to help you both out.

Water

It can be easy during winter to make the mistake of thinking that pets need less to drink. Clean fresh water should be available & having more than one source of water for your pet is a must.  A waterer is a great way to ensure a steady supply is available at all times.

And don’t forget lots of warm cuddles, pats, strokes & some time inside with you for all your pets during winter! 

 

** DISCLAIMER: This article is the personal opinion of the Pets Unleashed team. We always recommend seeking specialist or veterinarian advice when it comes to making decisions about the health or well-being of your pet, particularly in respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.